VISIONARY science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke died today in Sri Lanka at the age of 90.
He died of respiratory complications and heart failure that doctors ascribed to a post-polio syndrome, which had kept him in a wheelchair for years.
Born in Somerset, England on December 16, 1917, Clarke served in the Royal Air Force as a radar specialist during World War II and graduated from Kings College, London in physics and mathematics after the war.
Clarke is credited with first having the idea for geosynchronous satellites in a landmark technical paper published in 1945. Today the geostationary orbit at 36,000 km (22,370 miles) above the equator is named The Clarke Orbit by the International Astronomical Union and is well populated with communications satellites.
More recently, he promoted construction of tethered space elevators as more efficient means to reach Earth orbit. He had lately predicted that space tourism would become very popular and that man would travel beyond Earth orbit and the Moon to the planets and beyond.
In the 1940s he predicted that man would land on the Moon before the year 2000. His prediction was initially ridiculed as preposterous but his vision was vindicated when US astronauts touched down on the moon in 1969.
The prolific author produced about 100 science fiction books and hundreds of short stories and articles during his writing career. He was best known for writing the stories behind the films "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "2010: The Year We Make Contact" and advising the movie productions. Tens of millions of people all over the world have watched those films over the years and they are regarded by many as among the greatest movies ever made.
With an uninterrupted writing career spanning more than 60 years, Clarke was regarded as one of the "Big Three" science fiction writers, alongside Russian born Isaac Asimov, who died in 1992, and US native Robert Heinlein, who died in 1988. He based his writing on scientific facts and theories rather than fantasy and kept humanity and its consciousness, evolution and ultimate destinations central to his technologically themed works.
Clarke moved to Sri Lanka, which was then called Ceylon, in 1955 and spent most of the rest of his life there.
In observing his "90th orbit of the Sun" in December, Clarke expressed three birthday wishes: for ET to call, for man to kick his oil habit and for peace in Sri Lanka. He finished proof-reading the galleys of his latest novel "The Last Theorem" only days ago.
He is survived by his brother, who is travelling to Colombo for the funeral later this week. In his final instructions, Clarke explicitly requested a private, secular funeral, with "Absolutely no religious rites of any kind."
May he transit among the stars in peace. µ
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